A trip to Europe is incomplete without spending at least a few days rock climbing - and that’s a fact.
You may have planned your holiday with the intention of visiting fascinating historical cities, enjoying some mouth-watering food, or just lounging on the beach and making the most of the slower pace of life. But once you notice the incredible rock - it's everywhere - you’ll regret not bringing your shoes.
For some, climbing in Europe brings to mind images of orange limestone walls dripping with tufas. For others it’s the crimps and pockets of Tarragona, and others yet it’s sketchy British trad. Europe is home to a huge number and variety of world class crags, and depending on how adventurous you’re feeling, you could find yourself pulling hard on seaside cliffs in Portugal, or highlining over a lush green canyon in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
If you’re new to the sport or simply want the advice of a local guide, we have a number of awesome trips to choose from.
Unfortunately, as our sport continues to grow, some of the more famous European climbing areas are suffering from overcrowding and a degree of environmental degradation. For this reason we’ve chosen to showcase some of the continent’s best lesser-known (yet equally world class) climbing destinations.
Giulia Bernardini climbing in Stockholm, San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily © Massimo Cappuccio
1. Sicily, Italy
As we mentioned in our guide to climbing in Sicily, this Mediterranean island is known for 3 things: the crystal clear sea, the mind-blowing food, and the laid-back vibe. But in recent years, Sicily has started to gain a reputation for something quite different: rock climbing!
If unpolished limestone, peaceful crags, sea-side sport climbing, and a warm and welcoming climbing community get you psyched, then Sicily is the place for you.
San Vito Lo Capo, located at the north-western tip of the island, is by far the most famous climbing area in Sicily. Kilometres of cliffs overlook the sea, offering hundreds of sport routes from introductory slabs to true pump-fests. We recommend starting at the Salinella cliff, where you’ll find countless crags in a peaceful seaside setting, but there’s plenty more to choose from, including some deep water solo!
However, climbing in Sicily is not limited to San Vito Lo Capo. The Bosco Scorace (Scorace Forest), located about 30 minutes away, is a true hidden gem for boulderers. You’ll find over 200 sandstone blocs with a Fontainebleau-like feel and awesome climber’s B&B nearby, whose owners developed the whole area themselves. Impeccable footwork and a good head for top-outs are a must. Get ready for some schooling in power and technique!
You'll also find some excellent climbing in Eastern Sicily. Start at the crags near the historic town of Taormina, where you can choose between Sicilian limestone or volcanic basalt with a view of Mount Etna. There are some incredible routes in the peaceful countryside near Canicattì Bagni, on the outskirts of Syracuse. You can choose between vertical and overhanging routes which navigate through caves and holes.
Luca Parise climbing in Val Maone in the Apennines © Roberto Valentini
2. The Apennines, Italy
The Apennines are a 1,350km-long mountain range, often referred to as ‘the backbone of the Italian Peninsula’. Known for their wild landscapes, vibrant flora and fauna, quaint ancient villages, and pilgrim’s trails, the Apennines are also home to some pretty incredible climbing spots.
Bismantova, located in the province of Emilia, is one of the Apennines’ more well-known crags. A forest-topped island of rock rises suddenly from the surrounding hills, offering over 250 sport and multi-pitch routes, up to 8b, with a unique and technical style. Get ready for some spectacular climbing with soul-stirring views from the anchors.
Heading south to Tuscany, in the hills around the village of Camaiore you’ll find over 1000 routes on pristine limestone rock. The climbing here tends to be more suitable for intermediate to advanced climbers, with bolted single and multi-pitch routes 6a and up, offering views of the Apuan Alps on the one side and Mediterranean sea on the other.
The nearby region of Marche offers even more incredible sport climbing. Between Gola del Furlo, Gola della Rossa and the Frasassi Natural Park, there’s thousands of routes of all styles and levels, including the option to climb in a cave right next to a temple. Pretty incredible, right?
Finally, the Gran Sasso National Park is an area best known for its modern and classical multi-pitches. However, if you’re looking for something a little different, it’s the boulders around Monte Aquila, Vadi di Sole, Vallone delle Cornacchie and Valle del Month that you should visit. Think pockets, crimps and compact limestone, with a backdrop of stupendously scenic peaks.
If you’d like to learn more, check out our blog post on climbing in the Appennines!
Erik Baquero climbing Como marca la ley (6c+) in Arico lower sector © Mikko Vänskä
3. Tenerife, Spain
Tenerife is a fantastic year-round climbing destination, offering stable weather, 400km of coastline, excellent food, and awesome crags - all within a short drive from one another. The island’s characteristic volcanic basalt makes for some unique, varied 3D climbing. Tenerife is a great place to head if you’re looking to combine climbing with other outdoor sports: you can hike, mountain bike, surf, windsurf, sail - the list goes on...
Many of the best crags on Tenerife are clustered around the village of Arico, in the Southeast of the island. This is where you’ll find Climbing House Tenerife, a B&B designed with climbers and other outdoorsy people in mind.
The Arico crag itself is well worth a visit. You’ll find over 250 routes here, between IV+ and 8c+, characterised by powerful, bouldery moves. Tamadaya, nearby, is a great spot for beginners as it offers over 50 well-bolted routes up to 6b+, and a straightforward approach.
If you’re looking to get a little more off-the-beaten-track, head to Planeta Zarza or Guaria. Planeta Zarza is a small crag offering some excellent routes in 6th and 7th grades, covering a variety of styles (cracks, chimneys, face climbing, etc.). Guaria, located in the ‘La Montana de Tejina’ Protected Natural Area is home to some longer sport climbs and multi-pitch routes with incredible sea views. You’ll need to obtain prior permission to climb here, but this can easily be done online.
You can find out more about any of these areas in our blog post on climbing in Tenerife.
Javier Morales climbing in Cogollos, Granada © David Munilla
4. Granada, Spain
Granada is known more as a tourist destination than a climber's paradise, but on the outskirts of this historic city you’ll find some incredible crags known almost exclusively to locals. Thousands of routes - mostly limestone sport climbing - are concentrated within a small area, offering quality climbing on crimps, technical faces and slight overhangs. If it’s alpine-style multi-pitches you crave, then the nearby Sierra-Nevada range offers the perfect playground.
Los Vados, near the town of Motril, is one of the most extensive climbing areas in the Granada region, with over 500 sport and multi-pitch routes from 4a to 8b+ just a short stroll from the beach. While you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied as an intermediate or advanced climber, there are 3 sectors designed specifically for beginners, offering high-quality routes up to 6b between 30 and 40m long.
If you’re looking for something a bit closer to the city, Los Cahorros or Cogollos are good options. Los Cohorros is one of the oldest crags in Spain, home to 350 sport climbs in a scenic Dolomite canyon full of waterfalls and hanging bridges. The routes may feel a bit sandbagged, but that’s only because they still use a local grading system which is a little different from the French one.
For those of you climbing in the 7th and 8th grades, Cogollos is well worth a trip: think perfect orange limestone with crimps, pockets and tufas, and lots of variety between sectors.
Finally, to the north of Granada, in the outskirts of the city of Jaen, you’ll find Reguchillo, one of the best little-known climbing spots in Spain. With over 400 limestone routes from 4a to 8c and south-facing walls it’s a great winter destination - but unclimbable once the temperature gets above 15 Celsius!
Carlos Simes climbing in Sagres, Portugal © Ricardo Alves
5. Lisbon, Portugal
Portugal’s potential as a climbing destination is often overshadowed by its proximity to Spain, but this small country is home to some excellent crags! About one-third of third of the country’s existing crags are located in the area around Lisbon, where you’ll find anything from coastal sport climbing to adventurous trad, and even world-class bouldering in a mystical forest.
Of course, a trip to Portugal isn’t complete without some surfing, relaxing on the beach, enjoying delicious seafood and wine, and visiting the cultural metropolis of Lisbon.
Boulderers must visit Sintra, an idyllic town and UNESCO world heritage site situated on the edge of the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais. Amidst the pine trees, you’ll find medieval castles and palaces with lush gardens, and awesome granite blocs offering over 1,200 problems between 4 and 8b.
The Arrabida Natural Park is the place to head for sport climbing. Here you’ll find Fenda, a crag overlooking the Portinho da Arrabida beach which is home to many iconic climbs (including some of the first 8s in Portugal). While the climbs in the 7s are particularly world-class, you can choose from over 100 sport routes between 4 and 8b, characterised by their slightly overhanging, pumpy style.
For some sea-cliff climbing with an adventurous feel, head to Meio-Mango, on the edge of Cabo Espichel. You’ll find over 100 climbs between 5 and 8c+ here, on weathered limestone with a unique style: think creative, athletic and dynamic moves. The approach - which involves some zipline crossings - just adds to the adventure.
Ondrej Tuma climbing in the Czech Paradise (Cesky Raj) © Jan Zahula
6. Cesky Raj, Czech Republic
Sport climbing has featured heavily so far, but our next destination offers something a little different…
Cesky Raj, sometimes known as the Bohemian Paradise, is a climbing area just 40 minutes from Prague known for its traditional purist style. When climbers first set out to conquer the area’s sandstone towers, modern trad gear did yet not exist, so they used knotted slings and prussics instead. While some of the routes now have some bolts (these are NOT sport routes!), the style is much the same: no metal gear is allowed in order to preserve the rock.
However, once you master the technique the possibilities are endless. Cesky Raj is home to 30 sectors offering over 18,000 routes, within just 40km of one another! Chimneys, cracks, friction climbing, edges and face climbs - this area has it all. In fact, you’ll be surprised by just how much the sandstone can change in such a short distance.
Climbing is not the only attraction of the Bohemian Paradise: the whole place has a remote, wild and adventurous feel about it. Imagine valleys covered in sweeping pine forests, full of old castles and oddly shaped sandstone towers. There’s wonderful hikes for rest days, authentic pubs with delicious local beers, and a warm and welcoming climbing community to drink them with.
Cailean Harker bouldering in Clogwyn y Tarw, North Wales © Lena Drapella
7. The UK
As we’re on the topic of trad climbing, let’s talk about the United Kingdom. While it’s a myth that this country has no worthwhile sport climbing, if you’re an exclusively sun seeking sport climber looking for beaches and tufas, then I’d give it a miss. However, if you enjoy trad and bouldering, are patient enough to wait out a weather window, like rugged landscapes and a friendly crag atmosphere, then you're in the right place.
The Lake District in Northern England is well worth a visit, if not for the beauty of the landscapes alone. Think rugged fells that bloom purple in spring and turn crimson in autumn, crowned with lonely crags and interspersed with quintessentially English villages. Yes, the Lakes are not exactly off-the-beaten-track and, yes, British trad climbing is an acquired taste - but if you want the authentic experience, this is it.
In addition to the trad, there’s plenty of bouldering. We particularly recommend St Bee’s Head with its honeycombed sandstone blocs that make for a really unique day out.
The Snowdonia National Park in Wales is another classic British destination, where you’ll find everything from skin-searing boulders, to sketchy trad and even sport climbing! If you’re looking for some coastal trad, Pembrokeshire in Wales or the southwest coast of England are the best places to head. We’ve written a whole post about these destinations which offers more detailed information.
Heather Weidner climbing in the Prohodna Cave, Bulgaria © Ruslan Vakrilov
Bulgaria may not be the first European rock climbing destination to spring to mind, but it’s one that should definitely be on your list! Climbing in Bulgaria means unpolished crags, undulating mountain ranges, wild and unspoiled landscapes, and a chance to experience a rich and varied culture. From sport climbing in etherial caves to multi-pitch mountain routes, it’s a true one-of-a-kind experience.
The Prohodna Cave in Karlukovo is possibly one of the most unique climbing areas in the world. The cave is famous for its two symmetrical skylights - known as God’s Eyes - which, when viewed from the right angle, take on the appearance of a face looking down from above. You’ll find 100+ excellent single-pitch sport routes within the cave itself, characterised by their technical and powerful nature.
Vrasta, located in the Vrasta-Balkan National Park (about an hour from Karlukovo), is a grey-streaked limestone gorge home to 600 sport and alpine-style trad routes. The 350m tall Central Wall offers some of the longest routes in the country, but there’s also plenty of sport climbing in nearby crags, with routes up to 8c.
If you’re looking for a change of scenery, the nearby town of Lakatnik is home to 300 bolted routes, on limestone that has been eroded into some pretty spectacular shapes.
If visiting in the warmer months, you may want to head to Tyulenovo on the Black Sea coast for some quality deep water soloing. For some good alpine-style routes, head to the Rila Mountains, a stunning national park known for its numerous lakes and diverse wildlife. You can find out more in our guide to rock climbing in Bulgaria.
Klemen Becan bolting a new project and Klemen Vodlan climbing in Pecka © Anja Becan
9. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina still lies pretty far off the tourist track by European standards, but it has the potential to become one of the continent’s best climbing destinations. Although the development of climbing areas only really kicked off in the 1990s, thanks to the efforts of locals the country is home to some excellent, well-bolted crags, and even hosts the international Drill & Chill festival. Get ready for some of the most scenic countryside you’ve ever seen, legendary hospitality, and rock so unpolished that the locals seek out polished routes ‘for fun’.
We’ve got a whole blog post dedicated to rock climbing in Bosnia, but there’s a couple of spots worth mentioning again. Kanjon Tijesno is a crag in the outskirts of Banja Luka, which boasts the highest concentration of hard routes in the country. The climbing is on limestone (which even Adam Ondra has said is of good quality), full of crimps, tufas and pockets. The area is also great for highlining, and if you’re lucky you may spot some people practicing this art.
Blagaj is an incredible crag in the Mostar region, where you’ll find over 180 single and multi-pitch routes mostly around the 6th grade. The crag sits on the edge of a small Ottoman village and near some interesting historical sites.
The remote mountain crags of Klekovaca and Preodac are worth a visit if you're looking for some peace and solitude. Klekovaca is home to 40 sport routes on perfect limestone walls, surrounded by nothing but dense forest for miles. Preodac offers some quality climbing with breath-taking views, perfect for those seeking out routes in the 6th and 7th grades.
Pietro Radasso in Morgia Quadra, Molise © Francesco Guerra
10. Southern Italy
Another Italian rock climbing destination?! We hear you. However, in our eyes southern Italy is the perfect place for a winter climbing trip. Delicious food, beautiful coastlines, quiet beaches and historic towns are just some of the region’s attractions. Add to this with a good number of quality crags and huge amounts of virgin rock awaiting development, and it’s definitely an up-and-coming climbing destination worth visiting.
You’ll find a lot of excellent climbing just a couple hours' drive from Naples. To the north of the city, you have Sperlonga, where 18km of vertical coastline awaits boasting 600+ single and multi-pitch routes. But if you’re looking for something a little more off-the-beaten track, head south to the incredible Amalfi Coast where you’ll find Positano. This area is home to vertical towns and towering cliffs overlooking the crystal clear sea - which remain completely uncrowded.
During the warmer months the small region of Molise is well worth a visit. This is where you’ll find Frosolone, a true climber’s playground, with 60 giant blocs of compact limestone offering over 600 routes. Rural landscapes with a timeless beauty just add to the vibe.
Finally, boulderers should head to Pietra del Toro, near Campomaggiore, in the region of Basilicata. There’s more than enough to keep you occupied for a few weeks: 450 blocs up to 7m high, with technical climbing on compact sandstone.
This is only scratching the surface of what the region has to offer. If you’d like to find out more about climbing in Southern Italy, then check out our guide.
Alessia and Daniele bouldering in the Scorace Forest, Sicily © Massimo Cappuccio
To sum up
These may be our 10 favourite climbing destinations in Europe, but there’s so much more to discover on this diverse continent. From the seaside crags of Montenegro to mountain bouldering in Macedonia, you can find out about more incredible areas in The Climbing Travel Guide - available to buy from our shop.
We also run trips to many of the European climbing destinations listed above. It’s the perfect opportunity to get to know the area with the help of a local guide, meet other likeminded climbers and develop your climbing skills.
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Cover photo © Jan Zahula